Oct 4, 2012

Ripening Your Late Tomatoes

I posted a picture several weeks ago of our enormous tomato plants.  This was our first attempt at gardening, and even though we don't have the best soil for it, we were determined to grow something.  The tomato plants certainly grew; the Big Boys grew to six feet!  Unfortunately, the tomatoes on the plants never ripened.  There were tons of huge, green, perfect tomatoes that just sat and did nothing.  There are several possible explanations, but I'm chalking it up to the extreme weather we've had.

Even though my tomatoes were green, I wasn't about to give up on them!  A friend told me of a method that her grandmother uses for all of her unripe tomatoes and the end of the season, and I decided to give it a whirl.  It is working so well that I thought I'd share it with you.

The first frost is expected within the next week, so I waited until this week to get started on my box.  You could do this throughout the summer, but tomatoes that are vine ripened have a better flavor.  For me, this was more of a last ditch effort to save the tomatoes before the frost.  

You will need:
A large cardboard box with a lid
2-3 flats that fit inside the box

Of course, if you have more tomato plants (we had two Big Boys and two Romas), you'll need more boxes and flats.  Begin by picking all of the tomatoes off your plants.  If you have any that look like they'll ripen before frost hits, you can leave those on the plant.  Separate any tomatoes that have any hint of yellow or red color, and layer them in a flat.  Set it off to the side.  Make a layer of tomatoes in the bottom of the box.  Spread a layer of newspaper over the tomatoes (I used six sheets in each newspaper layer).  Fill a small flat with tomatoes and set on top of the newspapers.  Make another layer of newspaper to cover the flat.  Continue layering flats and newspaper until you fill up the box.  I only needed one box and only had two layers of green tomatoes.  Put your flat of the tomatoes that are changing color at the top of your box (so can easily check on them).

Place your lid on the box.  Store it in a cool, dark place.  We live in a basement, so no problem there!

Check the top flat every few days to see if your tomatoes have fully ripened.  Look through the lower layers as well, and rotate any ripening tomatoes to the top of the box.  This is how many of mine ripened after four days:

I've heard of people enjoying tomatoes all winter long with this method.  I'm thrilled that we can at least enjoy what we worked so hard to grow, even if they aren't fresh off the vine!  I'll probably use most of these up in chili, tomato soup, etc.

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  1. You inspired me to go to the garden and bring in a huge bag of green tomatoes, plus some really nice ripe ones that were lurking deep in the foliage! Took some of the best ones to Dad for him to ripen in his apartment, and we'll do the rest here. Even though Larry put up 50 pints of salsa and 10 quarts of tomatoes, I'm sure in the deep of the winter we will be glad we saved this final batch! Thanks!

  2. I'm glad you were able to save a winter stash!